The Boy Who Wouldn’t Wear Jeans

When I was a kid, I remember being vehemently against having denim touch my skin. Why? Honestly, it was a class perception thing. I perceived jeans as lower class clothing. I’ve never, ever, seen my father wear denim.

Oddly, I never noticed what the other kids wore. Maybe they wore jeans; maybe they wore polka-dot tights in neon green and orange. When I look at people I look at their face, pretty much always. I just don’t look at people if I don’t have too. I think I must have some kind of aversion to people. Maybe it’s an Aspergers thing. I mean I have a near photographic memory and by that I remember everything, but as if they were painted by Monet. What I don’t notice, so I don’t remember, is most people from the neck down. So when my mother tried to convince me to wear jeans, just to seem more normal, I didn’t get it.

Pre-high school, I found out later, I had a reputation for being stuck up and a know-it-all. The latter of those is absolutely true, but I was never stuck up. Sure, kids would say hi to me and I’d not reply. That seems stuck up, but it’s really just the fact that it takes me from two to ten seconds to engage the part of my brain capable of speech. Once I get it on, I can hold a conversation, but the only way I’m going to say anything to someone passing in a hallway is if I see them coming from a long ways off. It turns out I really didn’t need yet another thing setting me apart from the masses like not wearing jeans.

And people noticed that I didn’t wear jeans. Somehow despite these communication limitations, I found myself with a girlfriend. With all my flaws in personal communication, I’ve never, since I was 16, not had a significant other. I blame my propensity for eye-contact during conversation, and I’m not talking the creepy blinkless stare kind of eye contact. It was one of the first of these girlfriends who informed me that khakis should not be worn with sneakers. (This was 1985, I understand khakis and sneakers can be worn together these days.) Of course, I fixed that and promptly bought a pair of boots. Dress pants and dress boots (not cowboy), Too cool for school, right?

My sense of fashion as a teenager went downhill fast from there. I think I might have worn martial arts gi jackets to school on multiple occasions. I had them in red and black. Parachute pants and Jams were fashion trends I managed to get into in time, though I only wore my Jams once when I overheard two girls talking about my Popeye like calves. I can’t help it, I have well-muscled calves. Still, I was embarrassed and never wore the Jams, or any shorts again for a couple decades. It wasn’t until the parachute pants started falling apart that I decided the time had come to try jeans on the advice of another girlfriend.

Of course, I didn’t go for the Levis, Wranglers or Lees. My first jeans were designer jeans — stonewashed and tight fitting. My second pair was similar but black. I had matching jean jackets too. My wife still remembers meeting me for the first time in normal clothing, since prior to that all she had ever seen me wear was my belly dancing garb. She was appalled that I had stone-washed denim still in my wardrobe in 1992. She wasn’t too fond of my sideless grey and pink Chams shirt either. I think she ‘lost’ that one in the laundry. My ‘Original Italian Pizza’ tee-shirt seems to always illicit a cringe from her too, but probably just because it’s threadbare and two sizes too small these days. Fashion, was not my strong suit, ever.

By the time I moved to Nebraska I probably already had my first real pair of blue jeans. Levi button fly 501s. I’ll always have fond memories of those. I got a black pair after I joined the Air Force that I liked almost as much.

I like black clothes. I’d wear black all the time if I could. It’s such an easy fashion choice. Okay, I wear purple too, but I don’t think I could pull off purple jeans. Since I can’t wear jeans to work, ever, I only have one pair of Levis now, they’re blue. I wear them whenever I can. I like when they get stained or marked up when I’m working on the house, or building chicken cages. The marks are a way of saying that I don’t spend my whole life sitting in front a keyboard. I actually do manly stuff, like home repair and um, manly stuff.

Business casual makes people look generic and non-threatening, which is perfect for today’s corporate offices. Suits can make a man look sharp and powerful; in one word: Intimidating. Jeans, however, say you’re not trying to impress anyone; they say you want durable, comfortable clothing. I learned the hard way that working with power tools and wearing khakis is a bad combination. Those suckers are looking for any excuse to tear. I go through a pair of jeans every five or so years. I have to buy a new pair of khakis every month, preferably, but not always, black.

I actually still have those old 501s. Sad, that even when I stopped getting taller more than 20 years ago, I’ve outgrown several pairs of Levis over the years. I really need to listen to the immortal words of Milo Bloom and “…try eating less and exercise.”

Now, if only I could convince my son how cool twenty year old Levis are. I know I mentioned earlier that I’ve never seen my father in denim. I know he has. I actually got hand me down jeans from him when he outgrew the 36 inch waist.  Those old 501’s of mine are 24 inch waist…No diet in the world could get me there again.


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